|Christian Colouring in Beowulf|
F.A. Blackburn summarises the possible sources for the Christian elements of the poem in his essay The Cristian Colouring in the Beowulf:
Blackburn also classifies these Christian elements:
Others choose to examine how well the Christian elements fit together and form such an integral part of the poem. Unlike other poems, such as The Wanderer or The Seafarer, in which it appears to many editors that the Christian exhortations appear [to early critics] to have been appended to the otherwise pagan poems, Beowulf has Christian elements throughout the narrative.
Marie Padgett Hamilton, in her essay The Religious Principle, argues that the poem is consistent with Augustine's model of God's grace: that a society of the Righteous live together with one of the Reprobate on earth. This principle and the ways in which they are presented in the poem, Hamilton argues, would have been familliar to the English at that time. Beowulf's concern over his honour and wyrd -- his fate -- are concerns about Providence or Divine will. In wyrd, we can see the beginnings of a change in what was a pagan concept and its acceptance of a new Christianized meaning. On the other side, Grendel is equated to the race of Cain, and the dragon to be an incarnation of the devil. Again, these characterizations of the monstrous and evil were well known to the English.
What is clear about the religious colouring of Beowulf is that while it is clearly Christian, there is little Christian doctrine. References are only to the Old Testament narratives and concepts easily refigured from their pagan equivalents. It seems that Beowulf tells of a period in the midst of religious change being neither entirely pagan, nor fully Christian [or to be an attempt to integrate Germanic history into an old testament time frame].
Hamilton, M.P. "The Religious Principle" in An Anthology of Beowulf Criticism. University of Notre Dame Press. 1963.
Anonymous, Beowulf Klaeber, F.R. ed. D.C. Heath & Co. 1950.